UN envoy seeking renewed truce and path to peace in Yemen

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The UN special envoy for Yemen said on Tuesday he was trying not only to renew and extend the truce that expired last month, but also to get the warring parties to start talks on the way forward. of an eight-year settlement of the conflict.

Hans Grundberg told the UN Security Council he had presented ideas and options to the internationally recognized government and the Houthi rebels and was in constant contact with them on issues that prevented an extension of the truce .

“And those discussions are progressing and they are continuing,” he later told reporters.

Pressed on what the obstacles are, he declined to elaborate, stressing the need for quiet diplomacy and saying only: “We see challenges in how to frame issues related to economic issues such as payment of wages, and also broader issues that have implications for the longer term resolution of the conflict.

The UN-backed truce initially came into effect in April and raised hopes of a pause in the fighting of more than six months.

Yemen’s devastating conflict began in 2014, when the Iran-backed Houthis seized the capital of Sanaa and much of northern Yemen and forced the government into exile. A Saudi-led coalition, including the United Arab Emirates, intervened in 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognized government to power.

Grundberg told the council that in the seven weeks since the truce expired, “despite worrying incidents, we have fortunately not seen a return to full-fledged war.”

In recent weeks, however, he said the Houthis had attacked oil terminals and ports “in an effort to deprive the government of Yemen of its main source of revenue from oil exports”.

Grundberg warned that these attacks “have significant economic repercussions”, jeopardize the well-being of the Yemeni people and “risk triggering a spiral of military and economic escalation, a pattern we have already seen unfold during the war. in Yemen”.

While overall violence has increased only slightly since the six-month truce, he reported a “worrying increase in incidents” with civilian casualties in Marib, which the Houthis have long been trying to seize, and in the third largest city in Yemen, Taiz.

These attacks “demonstrate how fragile the situation remains and underscore, once again, the need for the parties to urgently reach an agreement to renew the truce”, he said.

Reena Ghelani, director of operations for the UN humanitarian office, told the council that earlier this month four displaced civilians were killed and at least five injured when a weapons storage facility exploded in Marib in due to fighting, and in the last week of October shelling and sniper fire killed two civilians and injured eight others, including many children, in Taiz.

She said landmines and unexploded ordnance continue to claim the highest number of civilian casualties, killing and injuring more than 164 people, including 74 children, between July and September.

Ghelani stressed that the threats against civilians go beyond the immediate impact of war.

“Hunger continues to haunt more than half of Yemen’s population, preying on the most vulnerable,” she said, and “17 million people still don’t know where they will find their next meal.”

The delivery of aid has also been hampered in recent months, Ghelani said, as the Houthis imposed restrictions that particularly affected female staff and beneficiaries, “leaving us less room to manoeuvre”.

She said migrants and refugees also face dangers, with more than 50,000 migrants having made the perilous sea journey from the Horn of Africa to Yemen so far this year in search of a safe haven. better life.

Ghelani said some never make it because of their flimsy and overcrowded vessels, including a raft that sank last month, killing three and 28 missing.

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